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Mac Jones is the NFL's Most Pressured QB and the Way He's Performed in Spite of it is Astonishing

Given the Patriots inability to field what any reasonable person would call a starting offensive line since the day training camp started, it comes as no surprise that they've struggled in pass protection. I think I started every report from camp and all three preseason game recaps talking about the O-line, because that group is truly the Alpha, the Omega, and every letter in between. Until they can put the same five guys together long enough to develop the consistency, communication, adjustments, reads, slides and so on to become an effective, cohesive unit, everyone else is simply wasting their fall and winter. 

All things considered, Adrian Klemm has done a fairly impressive job. Despite all the turnover up front, they've at least managed to keep this team in one-score games with a chance to win at the end. Despite facing the best front-7 in the league in the Eagles game and a Dolphins team that was at least above average last year. 

That said, Mac Jones was sacked four times and hit another seven Sunday night. It wasn't quite like the "We're onto Cincinnati" game in 2014 or that horrific 2015 AFC championship game at Denver when Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware spent more time in the Patriots backfield than the referee and Tom Brady was sacked four times and took an incredible 17 hits. But it's unacceptable and has to improve if the season is going to be saved from the incinerator.

But the point of this is less about the O-line than it is what Mac Jones has accomplished in the face of being hunted down like an escaped fugitive every time he takes a 3-step drop. I'm sure not everyone is in the mood for hearing positives about a quarterback who's sitting at 0-2. But consider the following:

Keep these metrics in mind next time the conversation turns to how Jones sucks and he's never going to be the one to lead this team where it needs to be or some unproductive Brady nostalgia. The numbers don't lie. And just to expand on them, according to Pro Football Focus data Jones:

--is second in the league in dropbacks with 105. With 2.34 seconds on average, and just 2.24 on pass attempts, both 3rd least. By way of comparison, Zach Wilson has the most time to throw, with a full 3.02 seconds. And Jones is 0.02 seconds from having the least amount of time to throw on sack plays

--has had 66 dropbacks with less than 2.50 seconds, which leads the league by 13

--is, when facing pressure, 5th in the league in PFF passing grade and 7th in completion %

--is just 26th in the league in which the QB is considered responsible for the pressure, at 6.3% of the time. The Patriots O-line takes the rap for 90.6%, which is 6th highest.

To me, that last data point is the most surprising. Though it shouldn't be. As I check it now, last year Jones was 30th and his pass protectors were again 6th highest. Go figure. Because all I remember from last season was him holding the ball seemingly for eons, waiting for somebody, anybody, to come open without running into each other in Matt Patricia's My First Offense Playset by Fisher Price. But the mind plays tricks on you sometimes when you look back at traumatic events. 

What is clear though is that Jones has vastly improved at rolling the pocket and throwing on the run. Whether it's just him sensing pressure and extending plays or a design feature of Bill O'Brien's playbook - and I suspect it's an even split - it's working:

And as a result, the offense has so far made a huge leap forward in a critical area that was their single biggest weakness in 2022:

As I write this, I know I'm not going to convert anybody. The anti-McCorkle zealots are entrenched in their negative opinions and no numbers coming out of Cris Collinsworth's little analytics factory is going to win hearts and minds. Only wins and a playoff spot will do that. I just want the few sane people left in New England to understand that we are watching a young quarterback develop before our eyes. And if the chaos in front of him can be turned into order in the next couple of weeks, he'll get the chance to prove it to everyone. Not just us.